Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Culture of Fear

      On a daily basis this spring of 2014 I far too often see a spirit of fear driving the attitudes and behavior in customers, co-workers and organizational leadership.  It's often not the larger global awareness causing concern regarding Putin's dubious expansion into Ukraine, the new outbreaks of Ebola, Al Qaeda threats, the Syrian war, Afghanistan or any other ongoing/emerging crisis far from home.  Most are too unaware of what's happening globally because our lives are too busy trying to survive. Paying attention requires too much additional learning and understanding which might require doing something.

     Some of this fear stems from a completely dysfunctional U.S. government bent on opposing anything the other party desires or focusing so tightly on extremely uneducated philosophies that at no level can they be trusted to do what's in the best interest of citizens.  The perception that our government only works for large corporations and those who've earned enough wealth to purchase legislators for self benefit is so commonplace that it's normal and acceptable. Not quite what the founders intended.

     A combination of the short-term outlook of quarterly profits and the global economic crisis (directly related to each other) drives a fear of financial and job insecurity.  An overhanging fear that not meeting the daily goals leading to the weekly goals so the monthly target is reached inhibits not only quality customer service but the health of many workers. While the vast majority of Americans would leave their job for another one if they could, most of us struggle with increased responsibilities after years of downsizing in direct conflict to higher performance metrics passed down from above.

     Yet growing awareness of the vast income inequality for those in management (it's not leadership) decreases trust, increases stress and hinders the ability to focus.  Far too often the fear of making a mistake on the job makes it easier to say "no" rather than meet the customer's need or solve the problem efficiently and profitably. Fear that our ideas will not be given credit or rewarded in any way or ridiculed by others keeps us quiet when we know in our hearts it is the right thing to do. We want to leave, but the comfort zone of our cubicle and team member relationships keeps too many from reaching potential. After all within our regions there are limited organizations to choose from and too many of them operate in a management system nearly 50 years out of date.

     If one has committed relationships and offspring the fear that for the first time in American history one's children will be worse off we are is ever present.  One can create (and should) our own list of fears which have lead us to inactivity and increased stress. In his Dune series of science fiction novels, Frank Herbert noted that "fear is the mind killer".  We can't overcome fear or reach opportunity potential if we don't know what's holding us back; individually, as a team, or corporately.  And we certainly can't overcome them all at once.

     One of my life quotes (everybody should have a few) to stand on that doesn't come from scriptures is a variation on Edward Everett Hale:
I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.
      Others might prefer the Serenity Prayer. Whether individually, our immediate family, in our organizations or corporately the most effective way to overcome fears is to DO SOMETHING. To stand for something greater than ourselves and make a positive difference in the life of someone else.  Organizationally if we strive to meet customer's needs (reasonably, affordably and immediately) and consider that every individual we work with is also a customer we often find that our own needs become met along the way.  And the fears that hold us back from achieving our potential become distant memories as we move forward.  Learning, growing, adapting and along the way that builds a support network catching us when we fall as we all occasionally do.

     Paddy Chayefski famously wrote in the script for Network, performed by William Holden: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more." I don't believe attitudes and behavior out of anger are productive most of the time, but mentally that may be what we need to do internally to step forward in action. Each day is a new opportunity to face whatever is holding us back and choose to mentally reframe yesterday's fear into today's possibility. Then of course we must do something. We weren't given these brains and bodies to sit idly by but to engage in activities and behaviors that create a better future than what we may see in the present.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Daily Celebrations of Hope

     I'd like to find the first corporate MBA who thought moving Black Friday to Thanksgiving day, pulling employees away from their families and ask them what they're doing today.  I'm sure it's not at a checkout counter in retail. Like the changing family structure in America our Thanksgiving occurs on three different days:  Last Sunday with one set of in-laws and siblings nearby, today with my other in-laws and Sunday with my father's family in Grand Rapids.  We won't see those in California, Washington, D.C. or Hawaii but have either already spoken with them or will shortly.  All three occasions we'll be missing my oldest son who's working at a homeless shelter in Kalamazoo.

     A family member recently said to me that we were going to have a "crappy Christmas" based on cash flow. My response was immediate.  If we're together it will be a wonderful Christmas because that's all that matters. I just don't have much sentiment for, as Tim Jackson quoted during his Ted talk on economic reality - "spending money we don't have for things we don't need on people we don't really like." That doesn't mean I don't like my immediate or extended family by any means and I love giving and in some cases getting gifts but what do any of us really need?  If you have time, read Bill Gates LinkedIn post. In my extended families whether doctors, teachers, consultants, business executives or those of us who are in some ways disabled and not fully self-sufficient we certainly don't need another trinket, sweater or nick-knack. Particularly with aging parents what we and most Americans really need is more time together just being. Without politics (quite diverse in my family and sure to spark conflict), without economic comparisons (also quite diverse as in most families) and instead in open acceptance of the value each contributes to the family, community and the organizations we all work for.

     Remembering some things that I'm grateful for this Thanksgiving isn't hard at all.
  • Our sons aren't in Afghanistan this year but learning to adapt to part-time civilian life again and growing as contributors to society in other ways while still serving.
  • We have a roof over our heads, the utility bills are paid, and the refrigerator is full of food.
  • With a few exceptions we are healthy.
  • There are many people (related or not) who love us and demonstrate so beyond words.
  • There are organizations and numerous individuals who rely on us to serve their needs nearly seven days a week.
  • We (immediate family) are on the way to recovery from the global economic crisis.
  • The continued growth of networked relationships providing admonition, wisdom, leadership and motivation to my own lifelong learning.
     The difference is that I feel that gratitude daily.  As at times I'll respond when casual acquaintances ask "how are you?"  "If I woke up this morning breathing, it's a great day." My faith is such that I get sentimental watching the sun rise or set, rabbits or deer feeding on the plants we grow instead of grass, a flower blooms, the sun breaks through the clouds during storms or as yesterday the snow flakes blow past the windows.  Even more so for interaction, innovation and opportunity to serve another human being regardless of social standing.  While grateful for a partial day off (I will do some student grading and my own PhD research today) and definitely the time to gather with family, Thanksgiving and Christmas are sentiments I celebrate daily. When I don't is when bouts of anger or depression set in and I have to force my self to stop the negativity and examine what really is more to be thankful for than I could ever list.

     With my schedule I don't really take time to stop and smell the roses as often as I should.  But living in the moment I do take time to notice their existence and thank God for such beauty. Even more so when that beauty comes from within (not externally) another human being. Thursday, November 28th, 2013 is going to be a great day to serve the needs of others and make a positive impact. In doing so we serve ourselves as well whether we realize it or not.  We really are one in the spirit, regardless of what name we give that eternal connection. May your gratitude grow unbounded in days to come and be shared with those you come in contact with.  Peace and grace to you this day and always.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Perfect Day

     This exercise suggested by a friend/mentor would have been interesting begun more than 30 years ago and rewritten every five years without reviewing previous renditions.  In the recesses of memory there have been several perfect days in my life.  One wonders though whether those fleeting synapse impressions are accurate.  That's a different exploration as we consider what it might be like were that day to be tomorrow. It's not chronological, but activities that may vary and accepting the flow of what comes has become an important part of my personal definitions of happiness and success.

    The day would begin without an alarm's noise before sunrise.  The exercise of grinding the coffee beans and the wavering odor of a  fresh coffee pot hints at hope. Waking daily to a mental song from history (another day's writing), a brief analysis ensues accepting or rejecting relevance.  The first hours are spent in reading and writing.  Depending on the day that may be either. Finding what is relevant, provides value, creates pause of reflection or a desire for more data, and is worth sharing with whomever crosses the path whether planned or opportunistic. Within the knowledge growth there must be reflections out the window gazing upon the sky, the trees, water or garden and the splendor that is the natural world.  Sometimes it involves walks away from technology and books.

Menial Labor
   This is not a derogatory term.  Whether doing laundry or dishes, tending to the gardens or lawn, or picking up/fixing something around the properties I find doing such work stress relieving while mentally explorative. I don't disagree with those who suggest fully focusing on the activity at hand, but running thoughts and words through mental processing while doing the dishes doesn't lead me to
doing inferior work.  It leads to satisfaction of task completion and different perspectives away from computer screens and texts.  It also reminds me that regardless of levels of success or assets, there are no tasks beneath my humanity and I am not more significant or better than those who currently earn their livings doing such necessary work.

Visionary Listening
     Others might describe what this means to me as problem solving.  I've long ago learned that I've been given a gift of seeing pathways, opportunities, and/or potential solutions as others come to me in crisis, or at minimum wandering and seeking hope. Through many human, organization and community development experiences I've also learned not to just tell others what that answer may be.  But to ask more questions and actively listen, engaging in ways that allows them to see a new hope and know they have the ability to reach it. Along those discussions the vision may change as well, but the ability so see collaborative answers is what matters, not my initial vision.

Serving and cooking
    My life is a service to others in nearly every aspect whether praying, financial services, teaching, tutoring, mentoring, cleaning or yes, cooking.  I love preparing meals for others even if that's just my wife and I.  The opportunity to prepare and create moments of connection with and for others is as the preferable function for someone with an addictive personality. My preferred method of serving is teaching, but not from lecturing off PowerPoints.  I seek ongoing levels of engagement with increased questioning of what is, compared to what might be.

Boundary Pushing and Accepting Advice
    I have over many years from numerous mentors become better at when I choose to push boundaries beyond what "is" but I am driven to never accept the current as the best possibility for those I'm engaged with.  It it were, I wouldn't be there in the first place. At the same time understanding that I will push other individuals and teams outside of their comfort zones (where growth occurs) I look for and need guides, mentally, physically and spiritual who help do that to me.

    That term is a very broad definition for me and while extending across continents depending on where those members may be primarily focuses on my wife and three sons.  My wife in particular.  As a confessed workaholic who feels  a driving sense to be productive continually I choose to be productive developing relationship, trust, hope and dreams with those for whom I would sacrifice anything (and often have).  As a mentor once said to me (probably from a book) "As father's and husband's we're willing to die for our families, but are we willing to live for them?".

Gratitude and Wonder

    When visible I love starring at the night skies through naked eyes in awe at the creation we exist in.  I can find that same feeling in the spider web that appears in the morning not visible the previous night, watching the squirrels cavort through the garden or the rabbits that dart through our neighborhood.  The beauty of the landscapes when I'm driving between destinations, the cloud formations, all enhanced by the gift of music.  My physical body, mind and spirit become weak when I don't take time to consciously see in the present that which is naturally occurring.  If I can wake and breath in the morning, I know it's going to be a tremendous day regardless of what occurs.

    This may not be specific enough for the mentor who will provide feedback in which case I'll reconsider specificity. Given the level of existing meetings, appointments, and numerous emails and phone calls that will be added into any given day I prefer the broader descriptive.  A perfect day put neatly into an excel spreadsheet leads to higher stress or missed opportunities because after all, life just happens regardless of planning. Adaptability, flexibility and the grace to be aware rather than boxed is where innovation and hope grow.  That's just my opinion though.  I could be wrong.

    America puts it well for me.  "Sitting by the fireside, with a book in your hand.  Two lazy dogs sit, watching your man.  Three roses where bought with you in mind.  I've got to stop and see what I'm on about . . . ."  That would be, and often is the end to a perfect day because every day is perfect as it exists.  I'm the one who's imperfect.

Atlas Shrugged is Anti Human

    I can't decide if the movie producers of Atlas Shrugged are making the films because they subscribe to Ayn Rand's pure hatred of  humanity and God. I suppose it could be the venture capitalists making the series hope that visually showing that truth might help some part of society see how hateful and evil her philosophy is.

  Lead producer John Aglialoro graduated from Temple University which was founded by a Philadelphia (my birth place) Minister Russel Conwell, a servant and mentor to many. The Hank Reardon trial lays out the new philosophy clearly.

     "There was a time when men believed that ‘the good’ was 
       a concept to be defined by a code of moral values and 
       that no man had the right to seek his good through the 
       violation of the rights of another."

   The dialogue is of course much longer, but one can not deny the implication of that single sentence.  Where once humanity was responsible for community, society and the greater good, that is no longer the truth by which we live today.  At least according to the philosophy of Ayn Rand, Washington politicians, the Koch brothers, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, or Citigroup's plutonomists among others who believe that profit is all that matters. Forgive me for citing organizations, when most humans employed there most certainly do not believe or live their lives according to such an empty and false ideology.  

    Whichever philosophy or spiritual belief (all religions are a philosophy) one adheres to the admonitions are quite clear.
"Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your 
       heart be also." Luke 12:33-34

"Spend in charity out of the substance whereof He has made you heirs.  For, those of you who believe and spend in charity, for them is great reward."  Koran 57:7

"To attain the Brahman reality we need to perform sacrifices . . . digging ponds for the public, involving ourselves in social work . . ." Vedah Pracetasadasitssaksadramayanatmana.

"One may amass wealth with hundreds of hands but one should also distribute it with  thousands of hands. If someone keeps all that he accumulates for himself and does not give it to others the hoarded wealth will eventually prove to be the cause of ruin. Hindu Artha Veda 3:24-25.

    "In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of.  In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of."  Confucius.

      Don't believe in any religion or higher power?  Try science and neurology which teaches us that greed makes us behave even more unethicaly and is as addictive to our brains and personalities as cocaine (because both impact the same neurons and release more dopamine).  Understanding what little we know of the DNA of humanity it's not hard to understand why those who profess to follow one religion or another would ignore the core values of what they profess on holy days in the name of lower taxes on the wealthy while taking millions of dollars from corporations and intentionally harming millions of their neighbors/citizens.  For whom they are responsible by all spiritual cultures.

They are as addicted to their false gods and ideology as the alcoholic, methamphetamine, heroine or cocaine addict they abhor and ignore like so many along the pilgrim road to Damascus.

And don't blame the Tea Party for this addiction to the proven failure of austerity and perversion of holy texts (pending one's paradigm). That Tea Party "label" has been twisted like many others far beyond its original good intentions of responsible government, self control, personal privacy and the opportunity to become more than one is today without harming others along the path.

Rather, consider the Dali Lama's words:  "If you want to change the world, first try to improve and bring about change within yourself. That will help change your family. From there it just gets bigger and bigger. Everything we do has some effect, some impact."

What positive, self-sacrificing difference can you make today?

One moment of giving grace, peace, generosity may be all it takes to start a movement that gives hope to humanity.  Is there treatment or a cure for the disease of human greed corrupting who we were created to be?  I can only think of three things: Faith, hope and love, with these additional words of eternal wisdom.

"Whatever you do for the least of these you have done for me," 

"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is Leadership Dead?

    My love for studying leadership developed over twenty years of community change, human development, and self employment while collaborating, building consensus and creating opportunity. The literature and thoughts regarding leadership are ongoing and continually reworked:   Transactional Leadership, Transformational Leadership, Authentic Leadership, Servant Leadership, Values-based Leadership, Strengths Based Leadership, Positive Leadership and on and on. Sometimes different labels are just a way to publish new books and measures of certain leader qualities but there are similarities across the spectrum.  Just different terminology with associated meanings.

     Certainly some part of my dissertation will contain a leadership element, just as the master's thesis did but not because we need more studies or data relating to leadership. As a species we've long ago crossed the knowledge threshold of what real leadership is and the impact potential for teams, organizations and communities.  Unfortunately we apparently lack the courage or will to go beyond self interest and greed, if one spends any time watching the news (best not to).  Obviously there is no leadership in Washington currently in either party or chamber.  Leadership doesn't do damage to the economy, to citizens, the community, the country or humanity.  That's what management is for - to squeeze the most blood out of replaceable employees in the name of quarterly profits based on big data and spreadsheets regardless of stakeholder impact.

     I'm particularly fond of Frances Hesselbein who first said "Leadership isn't what you say, it's what you do." Follow that with the ongoing work of the Robert Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and part of his definition of leaders:

     "Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, 
      freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect 
      on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?

     Is leadership dead?  Absolutely not. 

     I see it almost daily in my community and the multiple organizations I serve. Thursday while being one of three men to attend the 100 Women Strong Leaders of Distinction luncheon, featured speaker Gyl Kasewurm talked briefly about the glass ceiling for women and asked why whether politically or in Fortune 500 companies there are so few women in leadership positions.  While it wasn't appropriate to answer in that forum I thought "55-80 year old white men".  The honorees were Sister Paulita Walters and Sister Sharon Wedig from the Readiness Center.  There wasn't anyone in the room who doesn't exhibit daily leadership qualities and makes a positive difference in their teams, organization, community, county, state and then by correlation, the country and planet.  I see it in religious organizations throughout our region and countless volunteers who tirelessly work to help Do Something.

    Leadership is also visible in countless for-profit organizations who have found that serving all of their stakeholders (not just stockholders) is actually more profitable building better trust among employees, vendors and customers.  Chip Conley gives a tremendous talk below about leadership in the 21st Century.  That's the kind of leadership we need in our companies and governments globally now more than ever.  Naive?  Maybe.  But I have faith in things not seen and the ability to lead by serving and making a positive difference every day.  So do you.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ignoring Reality for Ignorant Ideology

     Moving into this nicely brisk fall morning before sunrise I'm grateful for a faith which gives hope in these times of utter ignorance being paraded as something to be celebrated.  Wednesday while quoting rates to a home buyer I was told:

     "I'm not interesting in locking an interest rate because defaulting on the Federal debt will be 
      the best thing that ever happened to this country and rates will drop."

Exactly. As we all know historically when businesses or individuals go bankrupt, they immediately get higher credit scores and better interest rates on their next endeavors.  As someone who teaches economics (among other subjects) when I suggested that his vision wasn't going to be the result he stated "You watch too much CNN and obviously have no idea. I'll probably just pay cash anyway but good luck with your delusions."

    Self-analysis says I actually watch CNN less than 20 minutes a week, if that.  Between the three jobs, family needs, community development and my PhD studies any television watching needs to be a learning experience (History, Discover, Smithsonian channels, etc.) or an escape.  Sunday morning talk shows used to be a standard, but watching politicians state lies as facts and then dodge questions to repeat the easily documentable falsehoods from ideological ignorance turned that into an effort in futility. 

     How one can watch high six figure talking heads laugh about how the government shut down doesn't have any impact because they're not feeling any effects confounds me.  Mostly that kind of talk sends me off to prayer which is a far better option than anger over the abuse America is heaping on the less fortunate in society.  Most of whom want to do better and are trying to climb the economic ladder but buried under the tyranny of the moment and decreasing wages regardless of educational attainment.

     One really can't watch television news these days to understand any subject because it doesn't teach or inform but seeks only to entertain or push oligarchical agendas.  Apparently Joseph Goebbels "If you tell a lie big enough and often enough people will come to believe it" is the new mantra of the Koch brothers and the politicians they've bought elections for so far in gerrymandered districts.

     It greatly saddens me that one of my first thoughts this morning is how close America is to repeating the collapse of the Roman empire. Mired in self-interest, greed, gluttony and ignorance of a purpose driven life while overreaching globally.  Fortunately I know my children (now men) are safe this morning, a roof over our heads for another month and there are choices about what we can eat today.  That puts us in the top 10% of the global population, though we're in the bottom 20% in America.

     And as the sun now rises there are opportunities to make a positive difference in the lives of those whose paths cross mine.  Globally and locally.  The shame upon America is that we no longer can gain truth from many "news" sources or those elected to govern our nation.  We can't say lead, because there isn't any leadership going on there, any more than we would say that Hitler or Goebbels were leaders.  We can find measures of truth in fictional dramas, and that is a really sad state of affairs for a nation.

    Although the statistics written into this speech from The Newsroom ranks the United States higher than either our students or adults do in multiple skills, the point of the writers is dead on.  We used to aspire to be smarter and lead, not because we had more money or better weapons, but because the cause was righteous and fair.

   I believe we can be again.  But until we can manage to be just to our own citizens and take care of each other instead of what's been happening in the past 30 years, leading globally isn't possible outside of drones and bribes.  And that's not leadership. It's the absence of leadership.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

True Collaboration Wells Emotions

     Last night in my organizational behavior class in between chapter discussions on values, motivation, job satisfaction and attitude watched a Tony Robbins speech from TED (below).  I for one never expect to have the Supreme Court on my side of anything (watch the video). To be honest I've never been a Robbins subscriber, bought his products or attended a seminar.  I know plenty of folks who have, almost all of whom are highly successful financially, and most before they started watching or listening to Tony. I also have to admit that if the organization I was teaching for allowed access to YouTube we'd have never gotten to this video in class.  They don't, even though they've promised over four weeks of classes every week that it will be available.  Thus the somewhat tired statement depending on one's beliefs that God has a Plan.  No YouTube with planned multiple video presentations to finding something to break up PowerPoints and professor Wallace talks for too long without multimedia always leads to TED.  This is actually the third time I've watched it, but the first time it struck me in ways that suggest I need to call Tony because of shared history and ideology.

    Step forward into a day filled with corporate meetings, hierarchy I neither know or understand, in an organization whose goals I've far exceeded (understanding that means they're raising the bar for next month) finishing at The Round Barn.  Held at the end of the day meeting in between Berrien Springs and Stevensville sponsored by one of the silo'd departments.  We gathered in a circle - 30 Type A personalities from six different departments and for the first time in a collaborative meeting that the organizational arbitrary spread sheets weren't discussed.  No goals, not referral numbers, no quarterly bonuses. Instead, the sponsoring department leader (not his boss, who was sitting in the circle) lead us through a creative exercise.

      Being almost all A type personalities there was only slight collaboration involved.  But then he asked everyone in the room to share personal stories about what they were most proud of in their careers, and how their work in the banking industry had personally made an impact on the lives of our mutual clients, a complete different picture than most have of the banking industry emerged..  Near the end of the circle by that point I could barely contain my tears from both the stories told, and the memories of individual lives touched over 30+_ years in business.

   By the end of the gathering a few hours later I felt part of a family. With that of course comes all the promises and idiosyncrasies that families hold.  Is the organization perfect?  Well they've made the Gallup top lists for employee engagement three years running, and a number of Harris and other polls for customer satisfaction and customer service. Most of which means nothing to people who are trying to feed their children, pay their bills on time, and keep their jobs. And as someone who's studied and written about these things for years and still sees the mountains that need to be climbed in how I believe  customer service and quarterly profits intersect, surveys are relative.  What it did mean is I'd found a group of core individuals who understand the corporate culture and figured out how to achieve individual, organizational and community goals along the way.  That's a rarity worth serving. And Tony's right below.  What motivates us emotionally to achieve more than we are today, that's what matter.  This team earned my heart this afternoon.  That's worth protecting.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Best of Lead with Giants, June 2012.


Well worth checking out weekly from a wonderfully collaborative, practical and informative collection of leaders.

Enjoy, learn, grow and do.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Less Testing - More Face to Face

     A case study I was asked to analyze recently points to the over utilization of testing, the lack of common
sense and the value society has placed on numbers (from tests) over face to face engagement.  The scenario is this:
  • Lydia, 58 years old, is a 12 year employee of a 250 member small business and highly successful as the assistant to the personnel director.  She integrates all new employees into the culture, solves HR issues for all staff, and negotiates on their behalf with management, often working after hours and weekends. She is well liked and respected within the organization. A widow with a large insurance settlement, her children are grown and onto their own lives. The CEO decides to give Lydia a promotion/raise to payroll manager with brief training where she has a team of five accountants.  Within weeks the unit is dysfunctional and missing deadlines while Lydia is often late to work and having migraines.  What tests would you prescribe to motivate Lydia and the team to better performance?
     Absolutely none. Of course the above doesn't contain nearly enough information but demonstrates the lack of engagement that often occurs in smaller organizations as well as major corporations. One may suggest that Lydia has high levels of loyalty and organizational citizenship behavior, so when the owner asks you to take on a new task  you agree because helping others is what you do and he/she has a need. We might also assume from the case that Lydia, lacking the activity of a home filled with family members has adopted the employees as family. Interacting with them as well as solving problems and opportunities as a mother/wife daily does with a wide diversity of activities.  While she clearly has some leadership skills, she acts as a daily facilitator, producing results throughout the organization and does so face to face with high levels of personal engagement.  She is motivated by purpose and relationship.

     Whether one knows any accountants or  not, the basic personality of CPA's is often completely opposite of those who are successful in an HR capacity.  Not that they couldn't learn from each other or value the skills and personalities each has.  Accountants tend to be detailed, by the book intensive thinkers because the numbers have to be exact.  Successful HR folks tend to be sensing, feeling, intuitive personalities who understand the guidelines but are better at relating to people.  Lydia's promotion is a complete personality conflict waiting to happen.  On top of which our case study gives us no inkling that she has any accounting experience (legitimate authority to manage) or any leadership training.

     My solution to the problems which have arisen isn't to spend any money on motivational or leadership tests. In small business there may not be funds, nor can the organization afford to waste time if the payroll department isn't getting paychecks or state/federal tax liabilities done on time correctly.  All six members of the team can take a basic Big Five personality test on line for free.  What really needs to happen is an individual conversation with Lydia to determine if she really wants the position (she doesn't need the money).  Chances are she doesn't, but if she does it is a team meeting run by an independent third party fully engaging all participants that needs to take place, now.  A hierarchical member of the organization leading the discussion may introduce bias and hinder open sharing.  However if the team members understand the value each brings to the unit and a measure of trust is developed from the conversation, then agreement on what needs to be done now to solve performance problems can be developed and instituted.  After all, the desired outcomes (on time accurate payroll) is a known quantity and the unit trusted Lydia in her prior position (implication).

     Far too often in organizations of all sizes we want to waste time and money taking any number of tests so we can crunch the numbers and make a logical decision. What we really need is face to face open honest discussions, brainstorming and agreement on path, process and performance expectations.

     Of course, that's just my opinion.  I could be wrong.  I'm not looking at the numbers, just the people.  And none of this is meant to denigrate stay at home mothers (or significant others) or any individual's value to society and an organization. Everyone has value at some level but too often we either don't know our ourselves, or jump to perceived opportunities that the organization doesn't really prepare us for.  There's no blame involved.  Blame doesn't help solve problems.  Trust, honesty and values do.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Fear of Finance - HARP

     After a 4 1/2 year hiatus from the finance industry which I filled with multiple degrees, international conference presentations, numerous sub-contract and part-time positions (mostly adjunct faculty and media work) I accepted a position almost two months ago at a smaller bank at their invitation. As I tell friends I feel slightly like Jonah, having prayed for years for a full time position with health benefits but swearing I'd never go back into finance.  The volume of sales in the first 30 days exceeded the contract 5 month goal, so I think He had plans I wasn't willing to accept.  Meanwhile the consulting, poverty discussions, media and adjunct teaching work for two institutions continues while I finish the PhD. In part because I am a confessed workaholic with limited time on earth to make a positive impact, and in part because I honor commitments.

     It doesn't take much reading of my prior posts to see the anger over Wall Street, banking excesses, bonuses and profit motive at the expense of communities and individuals.  I don't work for one of those institutions, and I am a firm believer that we change organizations from the inside, rarely from the outside. Particularly given the lack of oversight despite the supposed Bureau of Consumer Protection and the empty Dodd Frank Act. One of the reasons the Home Affordable Refinance Program was extended through 2015 is that far too many American homeowners haven't taken advantage of it and some lenders aren't even participating.  After all, they'd rather keep their customers at higher interest rates. Financially for families and individuals of all ages this program is far too valuable to cash flows and equity positions not to participate.  Examples:
  • I had a closing this week where a family with 25 years left on their 30 year fixed loan moved to a 15 year fixed, saved over $150,000 in payments they won't make, and the new payment is now lower than what their previous 30 year payment was.
  • Another family, nearing retirement age was given a very bad loan in 2006 by some broker and appraiser. The value given their property at that time was four times reality.  Not value lost in the downturn, but outright value fraud.  So even though they're backwards on the home (by 250%), they still got their lower rate 10 year fixed so they can pay it off, retire on schedule and keep the home they raised their children in.

     At lunch with a realtor recently who suggested that helping families who are backwards on their home refinance to a far more affordable and debt reducing position was just another government handout, my response is this. Would it be better for the millions of families in that position to just walk away from the property and leave the banks trying to physically maintain and sell it at a loss? What really would have been best was if the greed and corruption clearly evident in mortgage backed derivatives, some Wall Street firms, and too many unregulated mortgage brokers never caused a global economic collapse to begin with. It's too late for that.  It's also pretty clear that nothing's really being done to prevent further systemic problems thanks to lobbyists, corporations having more value that people, and the power that comes from being too big to jail.

     For those who qualify for HARP (Freddie/Fannie mortgage that was purchased by either GSE before 
May 1, 2009) an appraisal may not be required, and in most cases the current value will not prevent moving to current interest rates.  They're not the lowest we've seen as the U.S. bond market has moved from yields in the 1.6 range to over 2.0 in recent weeks, but if one's currently above 5% it is not a small amount of savings to long term debt and cash flow.  Savings that is desperately needed for most American families who own homes to either save more for retirement (a definite need) or to use as consumers which is what really drives the global economy to begin with.  Consumer spending: an unsustainable economic pattern, but reality for the time being.  "People are persuaded to spend money we don't have; on things we don't need; to create impressions that won't last; on people we don't care about."  (See the Tim Jackson Ted Talk below).

     As banks in general rate just above the U.S. Congress in trust and customer service and below root canals and colonoscopies, it's not surprising that too many  home owners haven't attempted to get better mortgages.  It's also a real shame because it's real money with an immediate impact on family cash flows and too many American homeowners are struggling month to month.  Unfortunately, that's not going to change in the next five years based on what's going on in Washington (hot air, no substance, and no value). 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

More Washington "Scandals" Please

     America in some senses is finally demonstrating that maybe, just maybe, it's capable of leading again. In ways that are significant, meaningful and lead to a better future for humanity than the global financial crisis and "our way or the highway" that has caused financial, physical and psychological damage to billions of global citizens.

    Given the "scandals" in the news coming out of Washington currently and the root cause (too many folks don't like a Black and Democratic President who is really a Muslim, Socialist, Communist who wasn't even born in the United States; wants to seize all guns, give hand outs so people never have to work, and who's economic policies more closer reflect the first 200 years of the country that made us a global leader . . .).  Surely you can add to that just by paying attention to whatever media you prefer.

    What makes me proud is that maybe something actually gets done to solve the problems that exist within the United States government without the double dip recession, riots and violence that have occurred in other parts of the world. Let's break them down.

  • Benghazi:  The only reason anyone's still talking about this is because maybe they can splash mud in a way that helps hurt a Democratic presidential candidate (any) in 2016.  It's a tragedy.  Those who died didn't need to, but knew what they were doing and believed in it.  Nobody spent any time holding hearings for those who lost their lives similarly in the previous four Presidential administrations though, and most of Congress was in office then too.  But that was before corporations where people and could buy whatever laws they wanted.
  • Justice Department AP Phone Records:  Oh, we'll waste hundreds of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating this in congress in 10 or 20 committees, but nobody broke the law.  Plus the folks who are protesting this are the same folks who gave them the authority to do that work if it related to terrorism and national security.  So just maybe, they'll decide that while there are bad guys (much less women) in the world, maybe there should be a little more oversight and a little less government intrusion into our lives.
  • The IRS Scandal: So let's see.  25% of the over emphasis in auditing, proving you were a nonprofit organization, or determining which of the three types of nonprofits  given the possibilities, were Tea Party organizations.  Hmmm.  Don't see any complaints or screaming about the 75% that weren't Tea Party named.  It's very unfortunate that the Tea Party has been attached to the Republican Party, because the 100+ Tea Party folks I know wouldn't have anything to do with the Republican Party. They want smaller government, less personal regulations, but spend as much time helping society and the poor as they do in Tea Party activities. And I've been a Republican donor and voter my entire adult life.  I have no problem
    with the resignation or any further firings which may yet come.  Then again, I've been audited thanks to a screw up by a national unnamed firm and spent three years paying the IRS back.  When I took three 3-ring binders full of every financial statement for the year to the first audit meeting the agent called the entire office over to see.  If  you aren't acting intentionally to commit fraud in some way, you've got nothing to hide.  And  yea, I could have sued the blocks off the national firm or made them pay.  What a waste of energy, time and resources.  I just never used them again.  If you have no knowledge that we have an IRS to make sure that nonprofits really are nonprofits (and they should still pay some level of taxes beyond property but that's a different discussion) and to make sure that folks aren't cheating and hiding funds in the Cayman Islands or somewhere else so they don't have to pay some of the lowest federal taxes in the industrialized world . . . well, you're listening/watching Fox too much or work for the Koch brothers, the scariest human beings on earth who don't live in Syria. Fox News only lies every 30 seconds or so. But one has to be able to read to know that.
     The United States Federal government is bloated, corrupted by wealth, pensions, and plenty of
folks who collect salaries too high for the amount of productivity and outcomes they produce.  Show me a corporation that doesn't have some of the same activities and individuals and I'll probably ask for the proof. There are those who live their lives for self gratification, and those who live their lives according to higher callings.  Everywhere. There are literally hundreds of thousands of government employees who need to collect their pension, retire, or just get downsized so either they can learn how the majority of Americans really have to survive, or quit doing damage to society.  And in corporate America, their replacements (fewer) would of course earn half as much or less.  Talk about deficit reduction.

At this point I can only see about two dozen congress members worth re-electing in 2014.  Unfortunately not that many will come up in the 2014 election. I just wish they'd quit blowing so much smoke that some consultant told them would help keep them in office and actually do what needs to be done in the country, and the planet, for humanity.  The folks who actually can accomplish those goals though are doing so already and would never run for office.  They have too much integrity.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Attitude and Perception

     Shared by Lead with Giants! Thank you.

     As the semester's ending and both my undergraduate and graduate students move on to their next opportunities I'm struck by hope.  Even in a global economy filled with uncertainty and modest job opportunities for most.  In part that stems from having spent more than a year with the graduate students, and the progress in the undergraduate students not of understanding theory, but of understanding self and how to apply theory to personal, professional and public life.

     The level of connectivity continues to grow exponentially in our societies.  The pace of change so rapid that boxing paradigms leaves one in quicksand rather than a firm foundation our grandparents and parents could build their lives upon generations ago.  The continuity with which one can survive, achieve, and contribute is rooted in the attitude we start with, the ability to observe and listen, and the perception applied to each individual moment building collaborative, innovative solutions.

     The more time I spend studying leadership and working the Industrial and Organizational Psychology PhD, reading countless peer-reviewed research, the more I see much of the theology we've had access to for thousands of years.  The Bible, the Koran, the Vedas and every major religion teach one patterns of behavior, respect for others, and levels of service that the management and leadership research only confirms with each new publication.  And one's ability to navigate uncertain futures with optimism and endurance greatly improves understanding the great Chuck Swindoll quote:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church....a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.” 

    Currently Vice-President of the Ogilvy Group, Rory Sutherland shares a Ted Talk below that demonstrates the breadth of knowledge we all should be pursuing (indirect of career path) as well as the importance perception (which frames attitude) holds for everyone one of us.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Being Right, or Being Collaborative?

     Wednesday afternoon I received an email regarding a client from an underwriter.  She had one accurate
point, which required a change to program but didn't impact what the client had been offered or will receive.  She then went on to belabor a couple of points in documentation that would be required.  Unfortunately for her, the documentation she wanted was already there. After making her first decision, she never looked at the rest of the file.  I responded directly and not as kindly as I should have and a third party kindly alleviated the stress in the morning.  In part, both of us had been right but not willing to give ground on our points.

     On Tuesday as an instructor for Cornerstone Alliance's Women's Business Center entrepreneurship classes I'd attended graduation for several women whose businesses are about to start and will do very well.  The keynote address was from Joan Smith of Smith-Dahmer Associates. In 2009 they were named the Merlin Hanson Exemplary Business Leader in the region. In 2007 they were named one of the top 50 small businesses to watch in Michigan.  The client list is highly impressive.  Smith's talk though was about overcoming a need to be right.

     "We grow up needing to have the right answers for the test on Friday," Smith stated in part.  "The problem with operating and thinking that we always have to be right is that we're constantly telling everyone else around us that they're wrong.  That's not a very good way to develop relationships or solutions."

      It's a great piece of wisdom that some days I follow, and other days I miss completely when my "justice" nerve kicks off.  Thursday morning I apologized for being short the afternoon before.  Today and moving forward I'm going to take a walk outside the building before I return to hit "send" or pick up the phone when that nerve gets tweaked again.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Apology? Only if We Earned It.

     Compared to some, I'm old.  Compared to others, I'm young (and occasionally act like it).  That will be a status for all of us the remainder of our days. I'm not prepared to say how many times I sincerely apologize this week, nor how many times folks have called or emailed me beginning with apologies.  Admitting we were wrong when we are is the beginning of leadership and integrity, as equally as granting grace to those who should ask forgiveness.

     In either transaction though the diamond is sincerity.  Too often I have folks apologizing to me that really shouldn't.  Whatever occurred wasn't their fault; was a result of their training; or came about due to external or internal forces neither they nor I had control over.  So while I appreciate sincere apologies if owed,  and I will gladly accept blame to reduce another's stress and cognitive overload; it is the solution I'm really interested in.

     If we've erred, be humble and wise enough to admit it, and resolve it.  If it really wasn't your fault, don't waste others time asking forgiveness.  Address the issue, offer solutions, accept the feedback and GET IT DONE.  It may be unfortunate, but we tend to give more grace for solutions than unnecessary apologies.  Wasting time assigning blame doesn't solve anything and hinders fixing whatever the opportunity may be.  Expressing your opinion of how to get from A to Z profitably is what most of us in leadership are interested in.  The past should be easy to deal with when we're will to admit the nature of self.  The future is what matters, starting now.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


    Having just picked up two new undergraduate classes (the nature of adjunct faculty) to lead starting next week on site for a local employer through the community college; and having preached way too hard during the A-to-Z challenge, I'm taking a short cut to end the month.

     I'll admit I'm slightly offended by the Disney portrayal here, but lyric wise I am grateful for the gift of new mornings the Lord gives daily.  Hope  springs. And if we ever meet in person, online or on the phone,  I don't care who you are Don't call me "sir".  

Jon works just fine, because in His eyes we're equal.  Status is something humans often wrongly place. Over 50 years of existence the most important thing I've learned beyond serving others above self is that everyone I meet has something to teach me.  Regardless of what some social BS decides or tries to apply.

    Hypocrisy!  Darn, human again. I've changed my mind.  Dick Van Dyke from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (same era, completely different writer/movie producers) better suits who I am.  Just ask my children, students or youth I've coached.  Nothing matters more.

And here's the Disney that fits the A-to-Z alphabet of the Challenge.

God Bless and Keep you till we converse again, and beyond.

Yea, Many American "Christian" Politicians are Really saying "F*^& the Poor".

     Too harsh? After all, the poor don't have Political Action Committees, and an unlike the those living through the Arab Spring, the majority of Americans still believe the myth of the Protestant Work Ethic.  The facts are that we work harder and more hours than any other developed nation and have poorer health, shorter life spans and lower incomes at the same time. 
      A co-worker had the nearsightedness to say to my local manager after I filled in as a morning talk show host discussing hypocrisy that I was a liberal. "People die for lack of knowledge." I discussed legislation introduced in Tennessee where families on  food stamps (maxed at $189 a month) would lose 40% of their benefits if their cold, hungry, under developed children didn't get good grades in school.  Certainly taking away more food from them will give them increased cognitive functions to get all A's, regardless of the treatment they get from family members who've lost food too. 
The legislation was withdrawn after the legislator learned how to read his Bible apparently.

     Two videos today.  If you're offended by curse words and reality, well you're probably not reading here anyway.  The first is a speech from The Newsroom by Michigan actor and investor Jeff Daniels.  Love the man, particularly his heart. I don't know who wrote it, but that team are accurate. I also don't have HBO cause it's not in the budget and I don't have much time for television outside of the occasional documentary.   The second is from Jon Stewart last night.  The first three segments should have been one, rather than split up, and that link will take you to the full show.

    Whether considering a country, a state, a county, a region, our communities, our churches or our families, the FIRST step in solving what ails us and building a better tomorrow for everyone is admitting something's wrong.  I'm praying for that day in America, and not waiting in the meantime to make a positive difference.  I just don't have that much time to waste because "somebody's going to take care of it."

     After all, Washington violates the "love your neighbors as yourself" commandment daily for those who can't donate millions to campaigns.  They (the poor and middle class in America) are not really neighbors anyway, because they could never afford the mortgages.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Xenogamy, Xenogeny, Xylotomy

     A little fun with the A-to-Z Challenge on the letter X.  Scanning for words that begin with this oft forgotten member of the family these three words are acceptable in Scrabble.  Xenogamy appears to be reserved for human species who don't believe in polygamy or monogamy and want to sleep with a Xen of people (however many that is, it's more than a poly).  Actually it means the cross-pollination from one plant to another.  So maybe my random first thought isn't that far off.

   Xenogeny is what happens after the pollination when one gets spontaneous generation which creates offspring completely different
from their parents.  Having three children who are all far better men than I, this seems completely reasonable. Xylotomy is the preperation of cross sections of wood for microscopic examination.  Which is actually what she's usually doing before the pollination so maybe it should have been the first word.  Draw your own jokes, please.

    Happy Monday friends.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Win to the Fourth Power

     Many years ago I had a sales manager who would regularly take the entire team and support staff to the corner bar to build social capital.  I doubt he knew that term though.  Often we know things to be true before someone labels it for scientific measurement.   After an hour or so it would not be unusual for him to stand on a chair and say: "God told me to tell you to sell more radio!  Watermelon shooters for everyone."

     Certainly the sales industry has evolved over the years.  The close the deal at any costs and whether or not you can deliver should be dead.  I remember moving into the consultative selling approach and the era of Win-Win.  The client wins and the organization wins.  I believe in part from an evolving theology it's Win-Win-Win-Win I've come to believe in.

  1. Customer Win: Pick any major (and some minor) theologies you want.  We're meant to take care of each other.  If you take care of your customer's (neighbor's) needs, everything else will be fine.
  2. Organizational Win: If superior customer service (not mediocre) is a daily focus, sales will increase and the multiple employment offshoots that support organization development, product or service, have jobs too.
  3. Community Win: If the customer and the organization are served, there's larger positive impacts in the community though some are better at it than others.
  4. Family Win:  If the previous three are making progress, all of our families are better off.
    I intentionally don't consider self in the equation.  The examples of individuals choosing self over others in all businesses and governments is ripe with unintended sometimes devastating consequences.  Unfortunately it's the too big to jail folks who get away with it while those with less assets get prison terms or lose everything.  The example set by the more equal democracy in Iceland of bailing out the people and jailing the banksters will unfortunately never fly in America, Europe and the UK.  But I degress.

     The fact is everyone is in sales whether we have that title or not.  At some point in the near future I have an interview with Daniel Pink coming up.  We were trying for March but our schedules didn't meld and now we're at the end of April.  When the time is right that it will have the most impact in my region, it'll happen.  Search previous ramblings from me and you'll find Drive and A Whole New Mind discussed, but the latest effort released in January is To Sell is Human.  Like everything else Dan does, it's phenomenal.  As an academic, I particularly like that he includes the reference listings for the sources.  If you've got the time, watch the interview below from The Good Life Project.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Just One Victory

     There's a wonderful line in the movie "Chicken Run" about leadership:  "The fences aren't just out there in the yard.  They're in your heads."  Today's A-to-Z Challenge comes directly from tremendous artist Todd Rundgren.  Enjoy.  Believe.  Do Something.

We've been waiting so long,
We've been waiting for the sun to rise and shine
Shining still to give us the will
Can you hear me, the sound of my voice?
I am here to tell you I have made my choice
I've been listening to what's been going down
There's just too much talk and gossip going 'round
You may think that I'm a fool, but I know the answer
Words become a tool, anyone can use them
Take the golden rule, as the best example
Eyes that have seen will know what I mean

The time has come to take the bull by the horns
We've been so downhearted, we've been so forlorn
We get weak and we want to give in
But we still need each other if we want to win

If you don't know what to do about a world of trouble
You can pull it through if you need to and if
You believe it's true, it will surely happen
Shining still, to give us the will
Bright as the day, to show us the way
Somehow, someday,
We need just one victory and we're on our way
Prayin' for it all day and fightin' for it all night
Give us just one victory, it will be all right
We may feel about to fall but we go down fighting
You will hear the call if you only listen
Underneath it all we are here together shining still